Friday, May 12, 2006

Converting to the Rosary

As a adult convert to Catholicism, it has taken me a very long time to come to the Rosary. I simply did not feel comfortable praying to Mary, as it felt like a violation of the first commandment. I could not find the line between devotion and worship and was quite worried about offending God if I crossed it.

Having no experience with the communion of saints either, I found the concept of intercession a foreign one. Why would God, to whom I had been going directly with all of my concerns all my life, respond to a spiritual assist? I simply could not reconcile it, so for a long time I just didn't.

After about 5 years as a Catholic, I was beginning to learn that every time I questioned something about my new faith, I found a thoroughly satisfactory answer. But why wasn't this happening with Mary? So, I started reading. Scott Hahn is always a good choice for me when I have academic questions about the church, so I began with Hail, Holy Queen. When I finished, I understood things much better, but I still didn't feel drawn to her.

As is so often the case in my life, it was my husband Jay who set me on the right path.

"Think of Mary," he said, "as God's most perfect creation. Isn't it right that He would want us to admire and respect His best work?"

He then took me word by word through the Hail Mary to see what I might find offensive about it. I had to admit, as he reminded me of the angel's greeting ("Hail, full of grace"), Elizabeth's exclamation ("Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb) and inquiry ("How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"), that it was all right there in the Bible. Nothing radical there.

And yet the last line remained: "Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death." That pesky intercession thing again. Again, Jay brought it home.

"Do you ask me to pray for you? Your friends? The kids?"

Of course I had to admit I did.

"Do you think it helps?" he asked.

Another nod.

"If you think my praying helps you, how can you think that Mary's wouldn't?"

Good question. Got me there.

So, I decided to simply try it out and see what happened. About a year ago I said my first Rosary. And I just kept right on doing it, almost every day. Why? Because something completely surprising happened. It didn't so much bring me closer to Mary, as I thought it would (although some of that happened too). It brought me closer to her Son! Through the meditations on Jesus' life, I have come to know the Gospels in a whole new way. And meditation on these events through a Marian prayer, has uniquely allowed me to see the events of Jesus' life from a mother's perspective, one I can relate to better than any other.

In experiencing this, it occurs to me that this is the very point of Mary: to bring Jesus to us. She brought Him to us physically when she said yes to God, and she brings Him to us still through Marian devotions, such as the Rosary, and through her own intercessions on our behalf.

I can finally understand that Mary herself is not an object of worship. She is a gift from God to us, through whom we can truly know Jesus.


nutmeg said...

As a cradle Catholic, I always had a hard time venerating Mary. I thought that it was all God's doing anyway, He just chose her. What is the big deal about her?

And then I studied JPII's encyclical, "Redemptoris Mater" (Mother of the Redeemer) and it all made sense. All of the cliche's I had heard my entire life, "Mary is only the vessel of God's grace", "It isn't Mary, but God's working through her" and "She is a true sign of God's love for His creatures, she is nothing, He is everything...."
It all made sense! Everything took on a truer meaning for me. And I could begin to respect her as the Mother of Christ and worthy of my veneration. (sounds snobby, I know....but it was a loooong journey!)

Thanks for the reminder about how important the rosary is. I think I need some of that in my life these days......

Michelle said...

I, too, am a cradle Catholic, but nobody had ever told me that the rosary was all about meditating on events in the life of Christ. I've had some pretty amazing "ah-ha" moments while meditating on the mysteries. I'm glad that the Holy Spirit finally opened my eyes (and yours!) to the beauty of this form of prayer.

Suzanne Di Silvestri said...

My husband, a cradle Catholic, went through all my RCIA classes with me and experienced a total renewal of his own faith (and he thought he was going just to make me more comfortable!).

Our faith is the most beautiful when it is understood. How great it would be if there was some sort of required adult program, kind of like continuing education for Catholics, so that those who are faithful but lacking the academic truths could be refreshed.

Thanks for the comments!